Death Shall Come is the fourth novel in Simon R. Green’s Ishmael Jones series of books. I have read the first three in December for three years so far and saw no reason to abandon this habit this year. I think the first book was the best of all of them, by far. However, the silliness and outlandishness of the stories entertains me and I look forward to my December reading. Death Shall Come was first published in 2017.
The thing that the end of the year (particularly these last two years) needs, is some entertaining, outlandish fun to be had. Something silly and preposterous that does not feel oppressive or dismal. These Ishmael Jones books are utterly the best fit for my end of year reading. Every novel is basically setup the same way – a country house murder-mystery, which usually is quite gory and involves something un/supernatural. Ishmael and his vivacious partner, Penny, end up wandering around locked rooms, long corridors, and the bodies pile up. That’s it – that’s the story.
In this particular novel, we are given just a glimpse more into the character of the Colonel. However, not much more – and I think nearly every page we are re-told how “military” he is. Its tedious and I am sure impatient readers will hate the whole thing. But it doesn’t bother me; I was weaned on Homer, do you know how many times we are reminded of the stock epithets for Achilles and Agamemnon?
This story’s theme involves a family of collectors of ancient Egyptian artefacts. The family’s name in the book is the Cardavans. We are told that for generations the Cardavans have used their enormous wealth to acquire treasures and circumvent legal/monetary obstacles regarding possessing these treasures. Readers with an ounce of history will know that the famous Howard Carter (“discoverer” of the Tut tomb) was financed by George Herbert, Lord Carnarvon. A name similar to the characters’ in this novel. The Cardavans have acquired a freshly-unearthed mummy and are currently relishing in their acquisition. The mummy is allegedly one of the older Cleopatras (not the most famous Greek one).
The “twist” in this book, I guess, is that the Colonel assigns Ishmael this mission – not for the mysterious Organization, but as a “favor” to him. And the Colonel stays with us the entire story, not just appearing in the first and final chapters. Overall, in this particular story, he was rather flat and one-dimensional. I think I preferred him at a distance. In any case, he asks for this favor from Ishmael because the Cardavans are his in-laws. Meaning, we get to meet the Colonel’s wife, Chloe.
‘What are you so nervous about?’ said Penny. ‘At best it’s a mummy, at worst it’s a serial killer. We can handle either of those without breaking into sweat.’ – pg 139
So, Chapter Seven actually had a moment of pulse-pounding for me. I guess I am a silly, simple reader. Nevertheless, when the suspense was building I was really on the edge of my seat. Its not a long segment, maybe three pages, tops, but it was fun and I liked listening to the terrifying footsteps on the other side of the door. Listening to them listening to it listening to us.
A personal anecdote of relevance…. one of my favorite books as a single-digit monster was The Secret of Terror Castle (1964). I read the ever-living hell out of that thing. I loved it. I read and re-read that one many times. So, I do wonder if the impact of having read that story so many times developed a strong inclination toward country-home/Gothic castle murder-mysteries. In any case, if the story contains any elements whatsoever of The Secret of Terror Castle, chances are I will be thrilled. And this has borne out with the fact that I rated John Dickson Carr’s Castle Skull (1931) so highly. Anyway, it should come as no surprise that I will likely try to read the rest of Green’s Ishmael Jones series.